I have been going to the gym for the past 15 years. My first gym was the University of Auckland gym, which I went to while I was a university student. Since then, I have belonged to a number of different gyms – work gyms, women’s gyms, suburban gyms, corporate gyms and community leisure centres. Over the years, these facilities – and the people who attended them – have helped me tremendously on a physical and personal level. I have met some incredibly dedicated, inspiring people through fitness centres. I decided to write a blog post on belonging to a gym as I think that a gym membership can be extremely beneficial in terms of one’s health and overall well-being. Note that I have deliberately used the word ‘belonging’ rather than merely ‘being a gym member’ or another such expression. After you have been going to a gym for awhile, you will feel a sense of belonging, as though you are part of a community. You will get to know people and some will even be a bit like family. This is a really nice feeling.
If you’re wanting to exercise regularly for your health and overall well-being, a gym can be a great sports facility at which you can train. In saying that, it’s not for everyone. The only way to know for sure if it’s for you is to give it a try. Most gyms offer a free pass to guests for them to try the facility before committing to a membership. This is a good idea, especially if you’ve never used a gym before as it will give you a chance to see whether you actually like it.
What should you look for, if you are interested in joining a gym? For a start, consider whether you are actually a gym person. Not all active people train at the gym. A fitness instructor from the first gym I belonged to once told me that there are lots of perfectly healthy and active people out there who don’t exercise at the gym. Some people just don’t enjoy training in a gym environment. If you’re one of them, don’t be miserable. Good options if you prefer training outside the gym are running, swimming, boot camp and sports. Click here to read part 1, part 2 and part 3 in my series on running.
What are the benefits of training at a gym? They are great if you are pushed for time as you can do a workout in as little as 30 minutes. They are also a good training facility if the weather’s bad as you’ll be undercover. You also can’t beat the convenience of being able to train any time during opening hours, unlike sports which meet to train on a certain day or days at a specified time. Some gyms offer 24 hour access, which is great for shift workers or anyone wanting to train outside regular hours.
In joining a gym, here are some of the factors you might wish to consider.
Location is an important consideration in choosing a gym. In my experience, the gym has to be close to either home or work, or you’ll never end up going. If your gym is close to home, it makes going on the weekends easier if work is far from home. Some gyms are part of a franchise which enable you to use your membership at other branches. This may mean that you can train at a facility close to the office during the week and a different one close to home over the weekend.
Before you join a gym, make sure that you are happy with the facilities. Does the weights area have a good range of machine and free weights? Have a look at the timetable for fitness classes. Does the gym offer an interesting range of classes? Try one if you’re able to before you take out a membership, to test the vibe of the fitness studio. Are the instructors enthusiastic and passionate about teaching? Do the participants engage in the class? These are good signs that you’ll enjoy taking fitness classes at the gym. Some of the fancier gyms might have facilities such as a spa, sauna and even swimming pools.
Have a good look at the changing facilities, showers and toilets. Are they clean? Are they adequate for the number of members at the gym? Be warned that they can get very congested during peak periods, especially in the morning before work. Allow extra time to shower and get changed before heading to the office.
Price point is a major consideration. Obviously, the fancier the premises and the more facilities that the gym has to offer, the more expensive a gym membership will be. Rest assured that it is possible to stay perfectly fit and healthy at a very basic facility. I currently belong to a community recreation centre, which I decided to join for three reasons (i) the convenience of the location, which is quite close to home; (ii) the weights area, which was very good; and (iii) the fact that the gym offered a range of Les Mills fitness classes, which I really enjoy. As it had been a long time since I had last had a gym membership, I was eligible for a 50% discount, bringing the total cost of an annual membership down to just over $330. I felt that this was incredibly good value, as basic gym memberships start at around $750 per annum.
Finally, before you decide on a gym, make sure that you ask around at work. Chances are your colleagues may go to a gym and they’ll be able to recommend a suitable one to you.